Saturday, April 23, 2011

malvani fishing village

after the meeting at madh, we were taken for a walk through malvani fishing village where the jetty for paring the boats, the drying yards and the villages all lie separated from one another by roads built later. meanwhile, land in between is being taken over by new developments threatening to sever even these links.

the beach at marve - where the boats are docked
a roadside shrine on good friday- a veiled christ

the fish drying yard
transporting the fish from the jetty to the drying yard
private houses on the edge of the village
the road being made by borrowing 6ft from adjoining plots.

the edge of the village/ mangroves, the city and gorai pagoda in the distance
the village playground

fish drying yard close to the village- no access from the main road
crab farming

homes built by small time developers for migrants on village land
future expansion of homes within the village as smaller houses on the edge of the village
a chawl in the temple compund
the municipal school in the temple compund
cooking on the street
the main public space of the village.
a godown to store fish hired by traders from outside the community


madh - meeting of the fishing villages

in a shack where we have had many parties, on the afternoon of good friday, george, shweta, rupali and me, on a stage, speaking in marathi. it is amazing how the term 'f s i' seems to have percolated to common usage in everyday life. hardly anyone knows what it means- leave aside knowing what implications it may have for their lives. it seems to be a given that to increase it is a good thing. regardless. most of the meeting was spent in convincing the community that to ask for added fsi was not necessarily a good idea.

bandra skywalk

Sunday, April 17, 2011

second year design jury tomorrow :excavating majuli

excavating majuli :

investigating the knowledge of architecture / the architecture of knowledge

faculty: ginella george, george jerry, shirsh joshi, nikhil khadilkar, advait potnis, shilpa gore shah, rohan shivkumar, bindi vasavda

teaching assistant- sanmita patel

studio intent

architectural thought is often embedded in certain forms of knowledge that privilege the technical above all other modes of knowledge. however, spatial thought concerns many more domains. it is impossible to separate the spatial from the social, economic and the political. the world of memory, history and desire are also inseparable and affect our understanding of space and form. however conventional architectural thought cannot begin to comprehend the holistic nature of architectural thought nor can it account for the uncanny and unreal that emerges through the relationships that we have with space.

held within a largely technocratic framework architecture can only see itself as problem solver to clearly defined 'practical' problems. these so-called problems emerge from preconceived and conventional ways of understanding what constitutes architecture and what is its scope.

to be able to fully grasp the scope and potential of architectural thought it is necessary to, at one level, open out the complexities embedded within the discipline; and at the same time open out methods of analysis and synthesising them to come up with new ways of reading architecture. through this process of reappraisal a position for oneself within architectural thought can evolve. within this position there are ethical and aesthetic choices on makes for oneself. the second year design project at the krvia 2010-11 attempts to evolve a method of reading, analysing and synthesising architectural thought towards allowing students to make such choices.

the subtitle of this brief hints towards the double bind embedded in the project.

at one level the project involves an opening out of the ways in which we 'know' about a particular phenomenon; and at the other tries to look at how architectural thought emerges out of a synthetic vision about the possibilities for a practitioner.

the project thus attempts

to expose students to varied modes of reading architecture.

to enable them to analyse the complexity of a formal/spatial object within society.

to provoke them into a synthetic mode of thinking to evolve their own interests within the context of majuli.

to help them evolve individual processes to arrive upon an architectural solution to the project.

majuli: an introduction

the island of majuli is the largest river island in india. it has been the cultural capital of assamese civilisation since the 16th century, following the visit of sankardeva, a 16th century social reformer. he established vaishnavite monasteries on the island known as satras.

most of these satras are constituted of self sufficient units inhabited by celibate men around a central temple space called the 'namghar'. the institution is headed by a satradhikari. the satras are deeply involved in sustaining and perpetuating the 'satra' culture in assam through music and dance. daily and yearly rituals are marked by prayer and dances in praise of lord krishna. these include an annual raas when multiple theaters spring up all over the island.

however, in spite of the relative civilizational prosperity of the island, infrastructure in terms of roads, water supply and electricity are inadequate. access to the island is difficult and is only though ferries; while the sialnd is prone to flooding from the brahmaputra. outside the satras tribals and villagers live in relative poverty only sustained through farming and the money sent in from migrants to the bigger cities like jorhat and guwahati.

the assam government is now proposing majuli as a world heritage site and has begun improvements to infrastructure accordingly. a new hotel is under construction and awareness abotu the island has begun to increase. this brings with it opportunities as well as threats to transform the island.


80 students from the krvia and 54 students from the guwahati school of architecture spent 5 days measure drawing three satras:

auniati satra: a newly rebuilt (1957) sattra- and the perfect diagram of one. perfect square inscribed upon the land and lifted off from the surrounding, the whole sattra lies on a bund. four roads lead from the middle of each segment to the central namgarh and the home of the sattradhikari- the central authority of the sattra. on the first days while we were there the most important ritual of the sattra was on- pal naam. krishna's name constantly sung in different forms throughout the day. throngs of people in the verandahs come from distances to live with the men that they forsook to the sattra. on the main road leading to the sattra from the village and across the wooden bridge was a village fair of artifacts and plastic toys. in the next few days this crowd gradually dispersed but the naamgarh stayed constantly alive with the sound of drums, kirtans, dancing and cymbals.

nutan kamlabari satra: unlike auniati this sattra was enmeshed into the surrounding landscape. while at auniati domesticity was relegated to the rear yards of the houses, here it overflowed into the front yards. kids were sleeping, flowering plants bloomed, and clothes lines hung on the main streets. the precise rectangle of auniati was distorted here. public private were not quite so distinct. the naam garh was older that auniati and was built in beautiful timber detailing. even the doors of each of the houses did not have any of the spartan minimalism of auniati, but were instead decorated with a profusion of motifs.

dokhinpath satra : the oldest of the three sattras. almost an hour away by bus on a bumpy road, in dokinpath the landscape of majuli entered the space of the sattra. an unfinished edge opened out to the low lying water and the fields of the island. a horizon could be seen from the inside.


step 1 - excavations

on the last day of the study on site the students were given a fictional premise that assumed that the island of majuli has been completely buried after a devastating flood. the group of students had arrived there as a group of archeologists and had begin excavating the site to discover fragments of the civilization in majuli. each student was asked to choose three objects that might be found in such an excavation. these could be local objects or objects that could be left behind by researchers such as them.

step 2 - establishing classification systems

the class was then asked to evolve modes through which the objects could be analyses. different modes of analysis emerged: properties in terms of form, in terms of time, in terms of people, in terms of location, in terms of value, in the way they are experienced and in terms of uncanny associations like dreams.

step 3 - designing the grids and classifying the objects

the students were then asked to evolve ways of analysing these objects through the making of a 'grid'. these grids would follow the representation of analysis like bar charts, pie diagrams, tree charts, etc. once these were designed every student had to place their three objects in the grids to understand them.

step 4 - shuffling the cards

a game was then played in class where the student was first asked to keep only one of the three objects that they had initially chosen, while the other two were placed in a large pool of cards in front of them. then they were each asked to choose one other object (not one that they had rejected) and then were given a third card randomly. thus a set of random associations between cards was created.

step 5 - analysis / conceptual formulation

the student now had three cards and its analytical frameworks. these, when placed in relationship to one another formed a complex set of overlapping conceptual grids. this terrain was made of vectors of ideas that sometimes formed patterns, and sometimes formed disjunctions. majuli, as an experience and as a site was places within this grid and the student was asked to evolve a project that connected the four phenomenon. these would end up in formal, spatial and programmatic choices- including a site and programme.

step 6 - formal and spatial evolution

students would be encourage to evolve their own processes for the project. these might include varying representation techniques, programming strategies etc.

Friday, April 15, 2011

life during wartime . a fish called wanda . the lincoln lawyer

in highly saturated miami sunlight this is a dysfunctional family drama including a pedophile father, a neurotic screenwriter and a strangely sexualized relationship between mother and son. the film considers the abnormality of the hyper confessional suburban american life while the dialogue is made completely of the kind of homilies we hear on a oprah winfrey show – ‘finding yourself’, ‘be there for you’ but breaks open in sudden bursts of violence.

the fish cant speak and protects the key to the locker where the loot is stashed away. jamie lee curtis plays the femme fatale twisting all the men around her little finger- kevin kline’s armpit smelling, brit accent hating, nitezche reading otto, michael palin’s bumbling animal loving, stammering ken and above all john cleese’s sexually repressed, family man who can speak almost all european languages. a comedy about languages and speech, of there ever was one.

matthew mcconaughey stars in this mediocre courtroom drama about a lawyer forced to defend once client against another. ryan phillipe is evil client and marisa tomei the ex-wife. nothing to talk about.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

india won on the street

like the cities they are in: adding on to old buildings in mumbai and delhi

churchgate station, mumbai: superficial, silly, tacky and ugly- like the city

ngma new block, delhi: pompous, overdone, heavy, unwieldy, unusable with tacky detailing - like the city